Horseshoes & Hand Grenades & Kitchen Dwellers 11.4.17

Mississippi Studios
Portland, OR

Words by James Sissler
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

If it was possible to doubt the strength of Portland’s live music community before, it isn’t anymore. Following sold-out performances by Twiddle and Tedeschi Trucks Band, Stumptown’s music lovers flooded Mississippi Studios Saturday night for yet another sold-out show. The bill featured three young and burgeoning string bands from different parts of the country: the Kitchen Dwellers, from Bozeman, Montana; Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, from Wisconsin; and Portland’s own Cascade Crescendo. The size of the crowd was remarkable considering that neither Horseshoes nor the Kitchen Dwellers had headlined a show in Portland at a venue that size. In fact, it was Horseshoes’ first time playing in the city. But far from anomalous, it was actually the bands’ fourth sold-out show in seven days.

Cascade Crescendo opened the show for their hometown audience with a short but sweet 45-minute set. The crowd quickly thickened as the Portland foursome busted into the first of the night's boot-stomping bluegrass jams. Featuring Hunter White on guitar, Taylor Skiles on bass, Harrison Olk on banjo, and Aden Beck on mandolin, Cascade Crescendo has a classic Americana sound and some of the sweetest vocal harmonies in the Pacific Northwest. The band stands out for their high levels of energy and musicianship, as well as their timeless songwriting, which is featured on their debut release, Caught in the Rain.

The crowd showed their love for the home team as those on the dance floor quickly got to grooving. The chemistry between the audience and band certainly felt like a hometown show, which was a great way to start the night, and a great way for Cascade Crescendo to finish up their eight shows with Horseshoes and the Kitchen Dwellers. The place was full and it felt like the party had just begun when the band ended their opening set. The crowd was primed and ready for a night of electrifying American bluegrass, and that's exactly what they got.

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and the Kitchen Dwellers played equal sets about an hour and fifteen minutes each. The bands alternated who played first throughout their extensive joint fall tour. In Portland, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades played first and the Kitchen Dwellers closed the show. The crowd was stoked to welcome Horseshoes to the stage, and the band seemed just as excited.

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades have been at it since 2010. Like Cascade Crescendo, they boast fantastic songwriting, solid vocals, and a folksy bluegrass sound, perhaps with a little more country twang than their Portland counterpart. Their musicianship is undeniable, and they perform surrounding a single vocal mic, which gives their show an old-time vibe. One of the band's more unique features is their multitalented harmonica and squeeze box player; it isn't often that you see either of those instruments in a string band. They were also the only band on the bill to feature a fiddle.

The Kitchen Dwellers closed the show with a rip-roaring set of their eclectic, psychedelic bluegrass, or galaxy grass as they call it. The Montana-based group has been making waves around the country, and especially the Northwest, as their ticket sales show. Having supported acts like Twiddle, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, and Keller Williams, the Dwellers are now proving that they have no trouble selling tickets as a headlining act.

Members Joe Funk (bass/vocals), Shawn Swain (mandolin/vocals), Torrin Daniels (banjo/vocals), and Max Davies (guitar/vocals) each contribute their own material to the band’s repertoire, often drawing from genres outside of traditional bluegrass like rock, funk, punk, and even heavy metal. Their tasteful use of effects adds a layer of psychedelia you won’t get from your average bluegrass band, and, despite the group's youth, they are one of the most cohesive bands on the scene, masterfully navigating difficult tempo changes that have the crowd stomping excitedly one minute and frozen, awestruck the next.

The high point of the night came at the end of the show when Horseshoes and Hand Grenades returned to the stage and joined the Kitchen Dwellers for a riveting rendition of their song “Mountain,” with “All Along the Watchtower” sandwiched in the middle. Cascade Crescendo then joined both bands for an unforgettable encore that included a lighthearted cover of “Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down. The show ended on a high note with a stage full of happy, tired musicians bidding farewell to a happy, tired audience.

The Kitchen Dwellers and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades tour is quickly wrapping up, with only a few shows remaining. Be sure to catch them if you can, and keep your eyes peeled for all three bands’ future dates. You really don't want to miss any of them.

Coleman's Photo Galley


Popular posts from this blog

Livetronica Sampler 3.22.11

Billy Strings 4.18.19

Buckethead: Gimmick or Guitar God?